Friday, September 4, 2009

What Do I Say to That?

I have had a quandary on my mind for some time now. It's something that I have pondered for what seems like a long time. Here's the question:

How do I respond when people compliment me on my voice?

It seems like a silly question. What do you say when someone compliments your outfit or your necklace? You say, "Thank you," and give them a smile. But that doesn't seem to work here.

See, I'm a music therapist. I serve children with special needs in a public school setting. Every day, I trek to several different buildings, lugging with me my guitar and a big box of instruments, books & materials. I conduct sessions in conference rooms, therapy rooms, homework rooms, my colleagues' offices and sometimes the hallway. Other staff members, administrators and parent volunteers pass by my sessions all the time, so lots of people hear me sing every day. (This used to freak me out, as I am a seriously shy person...)

Every now & then someone will feel compelled to catch me after my session & say something like, "You have a lovely voice," or "Your singing is so pretty."

Yikes! I don't know how to respond.

Up until now this post may sound like I'm bragging, but I promise I'm not. Here's the part where my humbleness becomes obvious.

I don't feel comfortable saying, "thank you" because I cannot take credit for Someone Else's work. Especially not that Someone.

I have struggled in recent years with the fact that I have two children, and also work outside of my home. I have read the blogs of some great mothers who homeschool their children, and I have thought to myself, "I would be happy to do that." My mother's heart longs to be with my children.

But God has other plans for me, and I've known this for a long time. Looking back across the years of my life, I can see those moments where He said, "Go this way. You'll be closer to where I want you to be." I can see in myself the qualities that He put there from the start... those qualities that He knew I would need to answer His call.

One of those necessary qualities is a pleasing singing voice. I didn't choose or create my voice. God did that. He created it and put it into my body. (Now, I'm not saying that I think I'm a rock star, but I can carry a tune.)

The truth is that I can do nothing without Him. (It says so, right in my Bible!)

I sort of think about an artist. Some great artists make their own brushes. They construct a brush with a specific purpose in mind. Then they alter it here & there to better suit that purpose. They trim the bristles a bit, change the grip a bit, soften or stiffen the bristles a bit. The final form that the brush takes on could be magnificent. It could be the most amazing brush EVER MADE.

But it is nothing until the artist picks it up and uses it. Until the artist plucks that brush up and applies it to His purpose, it is just a piece of wood and hair. Nobody would ever look at the Mona Lisa and say, "Wow! That painting was created by a truly wonderful... brush."

Let me tell you, my job is a complete blessing. I get to serve my Lord by serving His most wonderful children. I get to see the little miracles He works in them every day. And I get to be a part of that. But until He picks me up and uses me, I am nothing. And even then, I am only a tool He uses to work His wonders. The progress my students make is never due to anything that I have done on my own.

All of this goes through my mind each & every time someone says, "You sing so beautifully!" I want to say, "Thank you, but IT'S NOT ME. I AM JUST THE INSTRUMENT GOD USES TO WORK HIS WONDERS AND I CAN TAKE NO PRAISE OR CREDIT FOR THAT."

But I can't say that. I'm not allowed to say that in front of any of the students, and even if there are none in the room, God has been expelled from school. Even here in the Midwest. He is very taboo. Eyebrows are raised if ever His Holy name is mentioned (unless it's by someone who is taking His name in vain. Then, apparently, it's acceptable.)

Even outside of the public school arena, people often get visibly uncomfortable when you start talking about God when they didn't see it coming. They sort of shift their weight from side to side, look at you as if you have antennae growing out of your head, and change the subject as quickly as humanly possible. (Okay, sometimes I do mention Him to a Christian who is not made uncomfortable, and I always feel a sense of relief when they do not give me "the look.")

So I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a Sherman tank. I feel compelled to glorify His name, to praise His works... but I am also compelled to keep my job. (...since I can't serve His children if I'm not allowed into the schools anymore...)

If you've actually made it to the end of this [incredibly long] post, I am asking for your input. I want your thoughts, wisdom, advice. How do you think I could respond when someone compliments my voice?

Please, please, PLEASE leave a comment. If you read this. And at this point I am almost convinced that there is only one person out there who ever reads this blog (Hi, awesome new friend who reads my blog!)... please weigh in & help me with this. I am so new to this journey that I am finding some everyday situations a challenge to figure out.


  1. I'm posting a respond on my blog. Good post, friend. This is something I still struggle with, but I hope my reflection is helpful to you.

  2. Hmmm...

    I'd say you're dealing with two different things here.

    1. You've got talent. If someone compliments you on your lovely voice it is not snubbing God (or not giving him credit) if you say "Thank you!" I have a good voice too and when people tell me I'm good I say "thank you" to them and in my heart I praise God for it!

    2. The issue of witnessing to people. The biggest witness to people is your life. Your fruit of the spirit- peace, love, patience, joy, kindness, gentleness, self-control, goodness, and faithfulness. Sounds like you are actively trying to glorify God and give him all the credit- Keep it up! Praise him in your alone times with him. And ask him for specific opportunities to witness to others. I have a feeling that just your love for these kids is an awesome witness in itself.

    Hope this helps you to know that you are doing great!


  3. I'm the 3rd comment, so definitely more than one of us reads this!

    In school it is hard and it is awesome you want to give glory to God for the talents He has given you. Can you say "Thank you, I'm just using the gifts I've been given!" It does give credit to God, but in a more subtle way?

    Everyone else....I like your original response, so what if they are uncomfortable for saying it, perhaps that is the Holy Spirit convicting them. Nonbelievers won't be comfortable with us talking about God, because they aren't in a right relationship with Him. While you don't have to try to go out of your way to make them uncomfortable or be confrontational, I think it is important to realize that in order to share the gospel we will make others uncomfortable. Does this make any sense?


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